not-so-secret vices: old newspapers

I spend untold hours reading the smallest print stories in newspapers issued in 1882-1885 Ninety percent of it is relevant to what I’m writing (how much did a house cost in Manhattan? In rural Connecticut? With a few acres? A furnace?). Some of it isn’t. But I get ideas that often bear fruit, so I’m declaring myself not addicted, but appreciative.

Two recent examples from the NYTimes in 1883:

Skinney stabbing vaccination disaster

The first case is typical, but it gives me information on where such hearings took place and where crimes like this happened (I have a big wall map full of pins). You may not notice if I send a character to trial in the wrong court, but that kind of thing makes me break into a sweat.

The second article is a mystery to me, and I’m going to send it to various physician friends to see if they can give me any insight. What comes to mind is that Mrs. Mathews was trying to save money (which is odd, because vaccinations were free for the poor), and that she used a dirty knife or similar instrument. Just a year earlier President Garfield died a terrible death after an assassination attempt, because the many doctors attending him pooh-poohed anything looking like a germ theory, and operated in dirty shirtsleeves with dirty scalpels and probes. Garfield had a bullet lodged in the fat behind the pancreas and would have survived easily if somebody had deigned to take those upstarts Lister and Pasteur seriously (other U.S. doctors were, in fact, using sterile methods at this point) seriously.  But I’ll let you know what I find out.

 

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